“Mother! You really have the feudal way of thinking, such an old fogie!” Yu Xiaocao stuck out her tongue at her mother.
Madam Liu continued to glare at her, “Then you shouldn’t eat the breakfast that this old fogie made, just go and stay hungry!”
“Mother, I was wrong! Mother is the kindest, most beautiful, and most open-minded mother in the world…” Yu Xiaocao mournfully cried as she circled around Madam Liu as if she was a lively little rabbit. On the side, Yu Hai watched her antics with amusement.
Zhou Zixu gazed at the whole scene with a bit of envy. If he had also been born in such a loving household, even if the family was more impoverished, he would still be incredibly happy...
“Is Xiaocao home?” The sound of a slightly raspy, youthful voice came from over the walls. Immediately, a tall figure that was dressed in a set of simple black clothing appeared at the gate opening.
Yu Hai saw the fellow first and greeted him happily, “Oh it’s Xiaohan ah! Quickly come in! Cao’er, stop teasing your mother and come over. Xiaohan is looking for you!”
“Brother Han? Do you need to go to the prefectural city to deliver the wild geese? I’ll go to the back courtyard and grab them for you.” There was still some time before the deadline for the prefectural magistrate’s request for his son. Both of the wild geese were living at Xiaocao’s home, and she fed them small fish, shrimp, and mystic-stone water every day. Now, they were even plumper than they were when they were first caught. In addition, their feathers were sleek and glowing with health, so they seemed much more lively and energetic.
Zhao Han greeted Yu Hai and his wife and then smiled at Xiaocao, “Don’t rush about right now. Tomorrow we’ll start preparing for our trip to the prefectural city. My family isn’t good at raising animals, so let’s not mess around with those two wild geese. It’s better for them to spend an extra day at your place!”
Yu Hai watched as his daughter chatted with Zhao Han and quietly spoke to Madam Liu, “Xiaohan, that child, has always treated people courteously. It’s obvious that Sister-in-law Zhao knows how to raise children. Muyun, do you think that Xiaohan treats our youngest daughter a little differently...our family and Older Brother Zhao’s family, perhaps we could strengthen our ties with a marriage…”
“Don’t speculate idly! Cao’er is still young and who knows what the future will be like? It’s fine that you can talk about this in front of me, but you absolutely cannot let anyone else hear you talk. It’ll ruin our daughter’s reputation!”
Madam Liu also liked Zhao Han. However, per her intuition, she had a feeling that the Zhao Family wasn’t from a humble background, especially the madam of the family. Her every movement indirectly revealed that she had a noble background, so it was obvious to Madam Liu that things were not simple. If her hunch was correct, then the Zhao Family had an extraordinary background and were not one that their Yu Family could marry into.
Zhou Zixu, who had just walked out of the room, managed to overhear Yu Hai’s words, and he felt a bit uncomfortable in his heart. The look in his eyes as he inspected Zhao Han turned a bit resentful. ‘He’s only from a hunter’s family. No matter how much education or manners he has, he’s still a crude person. How could he possibly be a good match for his younger sister Xiaocao?’
The still immature youth interpreted the discomfort in his heart as a desire to protect his younger sister. In Zhou Zixu’s eyes, his younger sister Xiaocao was even more precious than those so-called young ladies from the wealthy families in town!
Zhao Han saw Zhou Zixu out of the corner of his eye, and he wasn’t quite sure what to think of this young master from the Zhou Family. Why did he stay over as a guest at the Yu Family’s? However, he restrained the questions within his heart. Instead, he nodded and smiled politely at Third Young Master Zhou. Unexpectedly, he received a look full of dislike from the other youth. Zhao Han felt even more perplexed inside, ‘When did I ever offend Third Young Master Zhou? Ah, the thoughts of a young master from a rich family are hard to understand!’
Zhao Han offered the little roe deer that was in his arms and sighed, “Didn’t I say that my family is not suited to raise animals? Tiny was only at my family’s place for a little bit and has become so listless. We made sure to offer it the best fodder available, but it doesn’t seem to want to eat any! Just look, it’s gotten so skinny that you can see its rib bones.”
“Tiny? Did Tiny get sick?” Little Shitou came out from the back courtyard and felt his heart ache at the sight of the listless little roe deer.
When it saw its playmate, Tiny seemed to become more energetic and used its head to rub Little Shitou’s arm. A pair of large and limpid eyes looked piteously at Yu Xiaocao as if it was trying to say, “I won’t eat the green vegetables anymore, please let me come back…”
Yes, that’s right! This little roe deer couldn’t restrain itself from eating the alluring green vegetables that had been watered with mystic-stone water. When the family wasn’t careful, it ate a whole patch of green vegetables and had been banished away by Yu Xiaocao to Zhao Han’s family. Because Xiaocao had solemnly entrusted to task to him, Zhao Han did his best to take good care of the little roe deer and even bought some of the highest quality feed for it.
However, the little roe deer thinned down with each passing day. If another seven to eight days passed, then it would no longer be able to walk without stumbling. If it still didn’t go back home, then he was afraid that the next time Yu Xiaocao saw the deer she would only see a tiny little corpse…
After she saw the little animal’s current state, Yu Xiaocao felt her heart soften as she rubbed the little creature’s head. She quietly said, “Are you going to eat the vegetables in the future then? Make sure to remember, you absolutely cannot touch anything that is growing in the fields. You got that?”
The little roe deer acted as though it could understand everything she was saying and cheerfully nodded its head. It quickly became much more energetic. Yu Xiaocao laughed and scolded, “You crafty little thing! You know how to injure yourself to gain people’s sympathy eh! You’ve truly become more sentient.”
When Zhou Zixu saw Xiaocao smile brightly with her dimples showing when she talked to Zhao Han, the uncomfortable feeling in his heart increased. He scampered over and interjected, “This little roe deer looks pretty clever!”
Hearing the little roe deer getting complimented made Little Shitou feel like he was getting complimented instead. He lifted his chest proudly and said, “Tiny is very well-behaved and never poops around. It can even understand what we say!”
Zhou Zixu continued to praise the little roe deer. As the other people were talking, Yu Xiaocao washed a few vegetables and took off a few leaves before sprinkling some mystic-stone water on top. The little roe deer stared at the leaves unwaveringly and had a completely gluttonous look on its face.
Yu Xiaocao had Little Shitou put the little animal down. The little roe deer first looked at her and only after it got her approval did it rush towards the vegetables leaves and gobble it down happily. As it ate, its shaggy little tail waved happily and both of its ears twitched. It looked incredibly adorable!
“Brother Han, when we go to the prefectural city tomorrow, will Uncle Zhao be going too?” Yu Xiaocao asked quietly as she stood next to Zhao Han, watching the roe deer eat.
Zhao Han smiled and nodded his head, “Yup! The prefectural city is too far from here, so my father doesn’t think it’s safe for me to go alone!”
Yu Xiaocao pursed her lips and replied somewhat enviously, “The furthest I’ve been to is the town, I’ve never been to the prefectural city...”
Zhao Han apparently had heard her hint within her words and looked at her gently, “How about...I could talk to Uncle Yu and see if you could also go with us to the prefectural city?”
Yu Xiaocao’s eyes lit up and she secretly glanced at Yu Hai, who was picking vegetables from the fields. She quietly replied, “Do you think that it’ll work? The prefectural city is so far from here that we can’t get back in the same day. My father will definitely not agree to this.”
Zhou Zixu felt rather resentful about Zhao Han ‘abducting’ Yu Xiaocao. He frowned and earnestly interjected, “Brother Zhao, Younger Sister Xiaocao is not related to you by blood. Although she’s young, she’s still a girl and is not suited to spend the night away from home.”
When she heard Zhou Zixu say that, Xiaocao immediately felt that her hopes were even more uncertain. She pouted her lips in unhappiness.
Zhou Zixu tried to console her, “My family has a small residence in the prefectural city and the renovations are almost finished there. I can bring you to the prefectural city to play and conveniently find a good location to establish a branch of Zhenxiu Restaurant.”
A smile stayed on Zhao Han’s face but the expression in his eyes as he looked at Zhou Zixu had cooled down perceptibly, “Please excuse my question, but if Xiaocao isn’t suited to go to the prefectural city with us, then why is it okay to go there with you? You may have a residence in the city but it’s not Xiaocao’s family’s home. If she stayed there, wouldn’t that be the same thing as spending a night away from home?”
“You! Xiaocao is like my younger sister; she’s not an outsider!” Zhou Zixu refused to be cowed.
“Pffft——How come I have never heard of Uncle Yu having an additional son?” Zhao Han rebutted fiercely.
“You...how absurd!” Zhou Zixu angrily replied.
“You’re the one that’s——being completely unreasonable!” Zhao Han’s words held a lot of anger.
Yu Xiaocao watched as the two boys continued to fight and felt that it was quite amusing. She couldn’t help but let out a peal of laughter. The two youths each looked at her. She waved a hand and managed to stifle her giggles, “You guys continue, just ignore me over here!”
Zhou Zixu and Zhao Han silently looked each other in the eye. For whose benefit were they arguing for?
When Yu Xiaocao noticed that the two youths were finally able to calm down, she made her final plea, “Father, I want to go to the prefectural city tomorrow with Uncle Zhao and Brother Han. Maybe I’ll think of a new way to make money along the way?”
Yu Hai heard her plea but before he could answer, Madam Liu butted in to express her thoughts, “Is the town not enough for you that you have to go to the prefectural city? It takes several days by foot to get there. It’s already quite tiring for your Uncle Zhao and you want him to help take care of you, a little girl? I absolutely refuse to give you permission!”
Yu Hai had a look of ‘there’s nothing I can do’ on his face. He said, “Your mother is right! Our family is not so poor that we have no options. We don’t need to send you, a small girl, to the prefectural city to find work. Relax a bit, you still have your father here!”
In an effort to pull them out of poverty, a little girl who hadn’t reached the age of ten had to make braised food, sell her recipes, and even figure out a method to cause vegetables to grow faster. She was so busy that she was getting stretched out like a rubber band. He was really afraid that she might snap under all of the pressure.
Now, their family could sell braised food and vegetables to have a stable income and some savings. They were even on the verge of buying a few shops, so they were no longer considered poor. Thus, they really needed to let his daughter rest a bit.
“But Father...I really want to go to the prefectural city to become more experienced and knowledgeable!” Yu Xiaocao did her best to use every trick in her book to act like a spoiled child. She knew her father was particularly vulnerable to these methods.
Sure enough, Yu Hai’s heart softened. He secretly approached his wife and quietly said, “Muyun, Doctor Sun himself had said that our Xiaocao is not a person with an ordinary destiny. She’s only nine years old yet she has earned almost two thousand taels. In the future, she will definitely be even more prosperous. As her parents, even though we may not be able to help much, we absolutely cannot pull her down!”
“What do you mean by she won’t have an ordinary destiny? Don’t forget that Xiaocao is a girl and will need to marry someone in the future! If she was a boy, then I, as her mother, would absolutely support her!” Madam Liu still believed in the old traditional values such as, ‘a woman’s virtue is to have no talent’. She felt that girls should spend more time at home doing needlework, managing the house and such, but there was no point in spending too much time out in the public.
When Zhou Zixu saw that Xiaocao was about to cry, he immediately forgot his previous position and hurriedly interceded, “Auntie, your beliefs are a little too outdated! It’s no longer considered shameful for women to go out of the house and do business. For example, Jiang Siniang herself established the store, ‘Exquisite Garments’, that is famous and known to everyone in the capital. Even the noblewomen in the capital have a difficult time getting her to make them a piece of clothing that was personally designed and sewn by her. In fact, all of the emperor’s imperial consorts want her to enter the palace to create clothing for them! I believe that Xiaocao’s future accomplishments,will absolutely not be inferior to Jiang Siniang’s! She can only be better!”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Sanguine’s Thoughts: It’s nice that Zhou Zixu has more modern-values in regards to women and working.